Sunday, November 30, 2014

Movie Review #48: The Ice Storm

I heard about this movie during an episode of WTF in which Marc Maron interviewed Elijah Wood. For whatever reason, this movie really stuck out in Marc's mind, so it's been on my list for months.

Short review: this movie is kind of all over the place as far as the tone goes, exploring a variety of emotions. It's compelling and uncomfortably sexual, but not explicit. It's also really hard to describe, apparently. The cast includes a variety of recognizable actors, including Toby McGuire, Christina Ricci, Sigourney Weaver, and, of course, Elijah Wood.


During Thanksgiving break, a family in New Canaan, Connecticut in the 1970's must deal with their various problems: the father is having an affair, the mother is becoming depressed, the daughter is exploring her sexuality, and the son just wants to get away from his awkward family. A dangerous ice storm forces them all to reevaluate their connections to each other.


The literal ice storm seems to take a back seat to the figurative one in this movie, as the female characters are almost universally cold. It seems as though the father in the family starts an affair due to his wife being distant with him, but it turns out that even his lover has no interest in what he really wants: someone to talk to.

Likewise, the daughter (played by Ricci) seems to be leading Elijah Wood's character on while playing temptress to his little brother.

I'm honestly not sure what to make of most of that except perhaps that the writer might be a bit bitter toward women. There's even a moment where Toby McGuire's character, trying get to know a girl, receives the "you're like a brother to me" line, because of course he did.

The male characters, on the other hand, are all pretty likable. Even the cheating dad seems like a legitimately good, caring father.

The most uncomfortable parts are when Ricci's character (a 14-year-old girl) starts experimenting sexually with her kind-of boyfriend (Wood's character) and his 12-year-old little brother.

I don't mean that it's uncomfortable in an "I don't think movies should be showing this sort of thing" way. I mean it's uncomfortable because, like much of the rest of the movie, it's portraying one uncomfortable situation after another--the sort of things an actual onlooker would be embarrassed to witness because the events are so personal. Children coming to terms with their sexuality, parents talking to children about their sexuality, parents arguing with each other, being alone in someone else's house--there are many moments in this film that step beyond regular drama and feel more like voyeurism. That's not a complaint, just an observation.

My only real complaint, other than the portrayal of the women, is that the apparent main character (McGuire's character) has very little effect on the story, and probably didn't need to exist. For the most part he's off on his own, having a scene out of town now and then, and doesn't really take part in the main conflict. I'm just not sure why he's there.

In conclusion: I found the movie interesting, and it explored some interesting topics. Take the family from Terrorvision, the threat from The Day After Tomorrow, and the drama from American Beauty, you'd get something like The Ice Storm.

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